It’s a well-known fact that you should not smoke around children and babies, well anyone really. Most smokers will be careful about lighting up around a child or baby and most Mothers will avoid taking their child or baby anywhere near someone smoking.
However, what about 3rd hand smoke?
So many smokers and non-smokers are unaware of what 3rd hand smoke is and it’s dangers. So, to find out exactly I turned to Dr Aifric Boylan from qoctor.com
What are the risks of smoking around Newborns?
Second-hand smoke contains thousands of chemicals- many of these are toxic, and it’s thought at least 70 of them can cause cancer in the long term. But even in the short term, there are many damaging health effects, such as increased asthma attacks, ear infections, respiratory infections and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS, previously known as “cot death”). It seems that certain chemicals in second-hand smoke affect the way a baby’s brain regulates breathing.
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Are there dangers for a Newborn to simply be in the same room as someone who smokes (even if they are not smoking at the time)?
Yes, if there is a smoker in the house, even if they are not actively smoking, the chemicals stay in the air for a long time. There is no “safe way” to smoke in a building that’s shared with others. Smoking in the car with the window down still exposes children to harmful toxins. And there is evidence that toxins from smoking can persist on a smoker’s clothing, hands and on surfaces in the home such as carpets- so contact with any of these can lead to exposure of a baby to chemicals.
What about sleeping? Are there risks from a smoker sleeping in the same room as a Newborn?
Yes. If there is smoking taking place in a living space shared with children or other adults, there is no way to protect them from the effects. And as mentioned above, there may be traces of toxins left on surfaces, fabrics, hair and skin of smokers.
How long after smoking a cigarette should a smoker wait to hold a baby?
It’s clear that toxins from smoking persist in a smoker’s clothing, skin and hair. So, unless exposed skin and hair are washed and clothing changed, there can be some exposure to toxins. Whilst occasional exposure in this way (to a smoker’s clothing, for example), might have extremely low risk, repeated exposure over time could cause harm. It can be tricky if a loved one smokes and asks to have a cuddle of the baby- it comes down to a parent to decide how to handle this issue. Research has shown that levels of Cotinine (a toxin from smoking) in the hair of the children of parents who smoke are similar whether the parent smokes indoors or outside.
How long do the chemicals last on a smoker’s skin, hair and clothes?
Chemicals last days to weeks, depending on the chemical in question. If a baby frequently crawls on a carpet in an environment where people smoke regularly, they can end up ingesting small quantities of carcinogenic chemicals on a regular basis.
If the parent of a Newborn is a smoker what precautions should they take when around bub?
It’s difficult to eliminate the toxins or “third-hand smoke” from a smoker’s clothing, hands, hair etc The best advice is not to smoke indoors or in the car, and to wash hands and face thoroughly before handling baby. Obviously, it’s not practical to change clothes or wash hair all the time. The ultimate advice is to quit smoking- for your own health and the health of your baby.
How can someone help and encourage a partner to give up smoking?
Every individual is different. As a partner of a smoker, you could start a conversation around some common and helpful approaches. Some smokers will benefit from speaking to their GP and trying a medication such as Varenicline(Champix) – quit rates are around 23% after one year if taken in conjunction with support/ counselling program. However, it may not be suitable for people who have a history of mental illness. Champix can cause nausea and some other side effects, so a discussion with a doctor is advised first. Nicotine replacement therapy in the form of patches, inhalers, lozenges or gum can also be helpful. It’s also worth focusing in a positive way on health- for instance, to take up jogging, yoga or sign up with a personal trainer- as a person may naturally feel less inclined to smoke if they’re generally improving their health in other ways.
Do you have any tips on what to say to visiting smoker friends or family that want to hold your baby?
There is no one-size-fits-all advice on this matter. It comes down to what a parent is comfortable with. In an ideal world, we would remove all exposure to smoke- be it second or third-hand, but the reality is this is not always possible. The best advice is to ban smoking in your house and car. And if there are smokers spending time with your child, request them, at the very least, to wash their hands and face first. Some parents may wish to be more strict- this is an individual decision. It may also be an opportunity to gently educate smokers about the fact that their smoking goes beyond the air- that third-hand smoke is a danger to the people around them too. They may not be aware, and it may prompt them to quit if handled in a sensitive manner.